Testimony Tuesday: Tammy Denson
We believe everyone has a story and building relationships is important, and that is why we are launching Testimony Tuesday - a blog that shares some of our customer’s stories from over the past 66 years. Whether a shoe from Wagner’s RunWalk helped the individual complete their first marathon or it simply provided the correct stability and comfort for everyday use, Testimony Tuesday showcases those victories and defining moments in their running career.
Today we feature Tammy Denson who is a long-time customer and also standing president of the Tuscaloosa Track Club.
Tammy Denson first found her love for running at age 9 when her dad signed her up for a track meet and she came home with two first place medals. Even though she walked away a winner that day, Denson said there are many times when she does not win and that is just as satisfactory.
“I don’t feel like a loser when I don't come in first because I have accomplished something that day; I have made myself better that day, “ Denson said. “I have exercised, I got up and got out the door, so I never feel like a loser even when I don't come in first.”
Since her early childhood, Denson has identified as a competitive individual with a good sportsmanship attitude, something she accredits to her athletic father, Clark Kennedy. Denson soaked up her father’s advice as he coached her from the sidelines in sports such as flag football, softball and track.
“He was always part of my life, and even though I became very competitive like him, he always taught that you can be competitive, but also gracious and a good loser as well as a good winner,” Denson said.
Into her adult life Denson continued to seek competitive opportunities and even played league softball four months into her first pregnancy.
“I played short field and they told me, ‘don't slide in on your stomach, and you’re OK,’” Denson said with a laugh.
Now Denson motivates others to be the best athlete they can be as President of the Tuscaloosa Track Club, which is a role she has held since January 2017. This local non-profit organization consists of individuals who run together regularly and assist with various charitable road races. Since the late 1990s Denson has been involved with the Track Club and she has served on its Board of Directors since 2007. She continues to donate countless hours of her time to the organization on top of her full-time job as a paralegal at a Tuscaloosa law office.
“My passion has always been running, so that truly motivates me to do what I do with the Track Club,” Denson said. “We all are volunteers when we sign up to serve, so I must love it.”
As Track Club President, Denson wears many hats. She works the finish line at a plethora of weekend races, including some of the 27 scheduled in 2019. She is in constant contact with race directors, scheduling races and answering questions.
“I always offer to meet with new race directors just as a courtesy, because most have never planned a race, and some have never run a race,” she said. “If our club is going to help run their finish line, we want them to succeed in every way.”
As an avid runner and athlete, Denson can also testify the importance of getting fitted for the right shoe. In the early 2000s she met Tommy Wagner, the former owner of Wagner’s and father of the current owner, Matt Wagner. At that time the store was called the Athlete’s Foot.
“I remember The Athlete's Foot in my early years with the Track Club. Tommy Wagner was great and always welcomed our runners,” Denson said. “[The Athlete’s Foot] soon became our Hub for the Track Club.”
Denson can remember the first time she went through the store’s gait analysis and felt nothing short of astonished by the customer service and the difference it made for her runs to be in the right shoe for her needs.
“I trust what they know about running shoes and the type of shoe for my feet,” she said. “If I talk to people about running, or they ask me questions, my first response is, ‘get the right shoes,’ and I always say, ‘go to Wagner's’ because they will put you in the right shoes-’ the most important thing for a runner.”
Ever since that first fitting experience, Denson said she has purchased 99% of her running shoes at Wagner’s, many of which are in the color pink or other flashy and fun shades.
In the past 15 years, Denson has completed 17 marathons and countless halfs. Today, Denson finds joy in running for personal development and as an escape from stress.
“That’s when I clear my head,” she said.
She has created articles and even resolved some of life’s deepest problems while running.
“It was the best out I had in my life, and when I got through, everything was gone. I truly believe, running is a big therapy session for me,” she said.
One of Denson’s favorite aspects of the track club is being able to share her love for running with others and developing strong friendships.
“I consider the track club my family,” she said.
Denson felt the weight of that family dynamic when one of the club’s members, Ricky Sparks, died unexpectedly last fall. Sparks was the Track Club treasurer when he ran the Breanna Leatherwood Race in Tuscaloosa last summer. Denson celebrated with Sparks at the finish line of the 4-mile course, and then said “see you later,” expecting to see him the following week.
“He ran that race on that Saturday and Monday he passed away from a massive heart attack,”Denson told. “It was devastating to the club as a whole.”
This year the Track Club, dedicated their team shirts to Sparks by ordering it in a red color and placing his initials, “R.S,” inside a heart below the team name.
Later that week Denson also sent out a newsletter to the team with a tribute to Sparks that told how if you find a penny on the ground, an angel tossed it down from Heaven.
“He said when an angel misses you, they toss a penny down sometimes just to cheer you up, make a smile out of a frown,” the newsletter read. “So don't pass by that penny when you're feeling blue. It may be a penny from heaven that an angel tossed to you."
Five days later Denson made her way to Omaha, NE to run in yet another marathon. A laminated photo of Sparks hung from her back the day of the race, but it was she saw at the start of the race that made his presence feel ever close.
“When I looked down and saw that Penny, I instantly thought of Ricky,” Denson said, holding back tears,” she said.
To say the least, the track club has become Denson’s second family.
Today Denson also enjoys running by combining it with travel. Whether she is cruising to the Caribbean and scheduling a 5k or 10k race while there, or signing up for a race out of state among some extraordinary landscapes, Denson has made the sport even more of a treat by adding a travel and adventure element.
As a take home message to her “Testimony Tuesday,” Denson emphasized the value of introducing running to the youth. She can testify that she makes an effort to do that in her own life. Denson bought a jogger stroller to get her grandson associated with running from infancy and started bringing her now 21-year-old granddaughter to fun-runs when she was the age of 4.
“Encourage kids to start early and to love it,” Denson advises. “If you can run, you can do any sport. Every sport has running in it.”
Thanks for reading our first Testimony Tuesday blog post. Stay tuned, our next post will launch the last Tuesday of the month in August!